Opinion piece: EV revolution to create huge opportunities for tech companies to partner with the automotive industry
By Sy Gourrah, Senior General Manager of Smart Technologies at ACTOM Smart Technologies, a Division of ACTOM (Pty) Ltd

The emergence and growing popularity of Electric Vehicles (EVs) is generating exciting opportunities for the Eastern Cape province, which already has a well-established presence in the local vehicle manufacturing sector, as well as for technology companies looking to partner with the automotive industry.

The region has the potential to expand its manufacturing capabilities to include EVs, which could pave a promising path for the industry’s transformation in line with smart technology advancements. This could bring various benefits to the province such as increased employment opportunities, new technologies, and could also encourage the establishment of private-public partnerships. It is also likely to advance smart technologies and solutions that would facilitate infrastructure development with drastically reduced emissions, creating a sustainable transportation sector.

The Eastern Cape province is currently the largest exporter of vehicles and due to the demand for EVs in Europe, the province is well-positioned to manufacture them on its existing production lines. The Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) Eastern Cape has already been aligned to the establishment of local EV-building capabilities and the development of the required skills.

Factors driving adoption

Increasing climate change concerns and the mandatory reduction of carbon emissions in most European countries are driving the adoption of EVs, which will mitigate air pollution and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. However, the global automotive landscape is currently shifting not only to EVs but also to digitalisation and smart technologies, which are playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation of South Africa’s manufacturing space.

As a result, the Eastern Cape needs to keep pace with emerging trends in the automotive sector, especially as the advancement in battery technology has increased the viability and performance of EVs, making them more appealing to customers. It is therefore key for South Africa’s major automotive industry hub to keep up with automakers that are currently transitioning to electric mobility and moving away from internal combustion engines.

EV manufacturing is aligned with the advancement of several other smart technologies, such as battery management, performance optimisation, efficiency, and safety systems. EVs generate a large amount of data that needs to be analysed from sensors, control units and communication modules. Additionally, smart grids and charging infrastructure, along with remote vehicle monitoring systems, would have to be integrated for the large-scale rollout of EVs.

Partnership opportunities

This is likely to create opportunities for companies to partner with the province, as well as automotive industry players for the supply of charging stations and related infrastructure across the country. Similarly, manufacturers and assemblers of batteries that can provide battery storage in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner will likely get the opportunity to partner with players in the automotive industry.

The transition to EVs is one of the biggest disruptors of the modern automotive industry and a driver of innovative solutions around electric mobility. One of the ways to accelerate this transition is through the expansion of the charging infrastructure network within the country, but the implementation of these projects will require the appointment of the appropriate technological partners.

Local technology companies that want to partner with the automotive industry must remain innovative with their products to meet the needs of the changing manufacturing environment. The shift towards EVs not only provides local businesses with the perfect opportunity to partner with EV makers for the provision of services and products, it also enables them to play their part in ensuring the sustainability of the environment.